Review – Faber-Castell Trilux 031 (Black, Blue, and Red)

Some time ago I reviewed the Faber-Castell Lux (034), an inexpensive Peruvian pen comparable to cheap Bics or Paper:Mates. They were pretty decent pens but they had small, round bodies that could easily become uncomfortable (I personally don’t have much of a problem with the size, but I can see how some people might not like it). Their bigger brothers, the Trilux (031 in this case), have larger, triangular bodies, in an attempt to remedy this problem and provide a more ergonomic experience while still being inexpensive. But are they actually more comfortable?

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“Probably” is the answer. The body is a very rounded triangular shape (in green for the 031, the back of the package indicated different numbers are different color barrels) with a cylindrical cap in the back and the slightest of step-downs in the front third, followed by a quick tapering to a point. The step down and end cap are just for the single-piece cap-with-clip to be able to grip since it’s still round for some reason. Both the cap and end-cap (finial?) are color-coded to match the ink color of the pen. Printed/embossed in black on the side is enough information to identify the pen.

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The section is comfortable to hold: the triangular shape fits well in the hand (with a standard 3-finger grip), the plastic is easy to hold, being slightly less polished after the step down, and said step down isn’t an issue at all, barely being noticeable. The cap is post-able (I only mention that because with the triangular shape and round cap they had to go out of their way to make that so) and the integrated clip does a fine job but I would suspect it’s easy to snap off.

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The inks seem to be the same as those used in the Lux, which are fairly comparable to any other set of inexpensive ballpoint inks, with the red being on the darker rather than the lighter side, the blue being quite dark, and the black feeling warm and grey-ish. My set in particular is fine-tipped, and writes fairly smoothly, but with more blobs than I would like. When I first opened the package the red and blue pens worked while the black was dried up. Warm water and/or rubbing alcohol didn’t unclog it and I finally had to resort to using a lighter, which I wouldn’t recommend, but it did work and was likely the only way to get it to write as it is “non-disassemble-able” (unless you want to destructively disassemble it).

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In the end they’re a solid pen, and a comfort upgrade with their thicker section and triangular design. They’re not the perfect office pen, but they feel well made (even if the plastic feels ever so slightly less flexible and/or solid when compared to some other similar pens), they write, they’re comfortable, and are inexpensive. I wouldn’t be seeking them out, and with them being “Producto Peruano”, finding a steady supply in the ‘States would be hard, but they are an increase in comfort to an already well-performing pen for the price.

Review – Bic Xtra-Fun Pencils

Sometimes I’m a sucker for buying new things for the novelty, and I think that’s what Bic is counting on (except I think their target market is children) with the Xtra-Fun series of pencils. At first (and second) glance they appear to be regular #2 pencils in wacky, fun colors. But are they usable?

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For the most part these pencils are pretty standard: a “wooden” hexagonal body with general information stamped and inked into one of the facets (each pencil also appears to have a unique number stamped but not inked into it; I am unsure of its significance). The most obvious differences between them and regular pencils is the bright-colored paint on the outside with the inside dyed a different (usually mismatched) color, and that the standard metal eraser holder has been replaced with a much larger diameter plastic one. The body looks and feels at first like a regular wood pencil, but after sharpening and handling it for a bit I would say that if it isn’t a type of plastic it is a “flaked and formed” wood that uses a different process than most pencils to give it more plasticity.

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The performance of the lead is as expected, on the soft side of middle-of the road. Not much precision is possible, nor shading; it’s good for scantrons and notes. The eraser is of the white variety, and actually very decent, erasing most typical writing lines without seeming to disappear before your very eyes. In fact, the most disappointing thing about this pencil is its structural integrity. It bends very easily, and much more so than a regular pencil. Simply handling it will result in finding out how easily it bends, which is worrisome in general, but added to by the fact that when I was using these pencils I began to sharpen one, and the tip broke off every time I was just getting to a point, down until there was no more pencil to put in the sharpener. Thus, one of my pencils was rendered entirely useless, and I hadn’t really played with the plasticity of that one, so I would definitely call it a defect, and one that makes it hard to recommend these pencils, especially for children.

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I probably won’t be buying any pencils from this range again, but that would’ve still been the case had they been good pencils. But with such an easy to encounter (albeit not in the intended usage case) flaw that essentially ruins the pencil’s penciling ability, I have to say I wouldn’t be able to recommend them to anyone. The colors are also terrible but I suppose some have different (perhaps more X-treme) tastes than I, so I can’t particularly fault it there.

Review – Crayola Crayons (120 Crayon Box Part 1 – White, Pinks, Reds, and Purples)

When it comes to crayons there is one brand that immediately comes to everyone’s mind (right before “and Roseart? Is that their name?”): Crayola. They’ve been making crayons for more than a century, and seem to really know what they’re doing. Their products are pretty close to ideal for school use, and can be used, in good hands, to even make fine quality art.

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They’re simple and sturdy, with just a traditional paper wrapper that is almost instantly recognizable to anyone who was raised in the United States. They’re harder to make a mess with than markers and easier to use than colored pencils. Still, they don’t lend themselves well to more advanced techniques, like any type of blending really. But to solve that, Crayola has a (relatively inexpensive) box of their 120 “standard” colors (excluding metallic, sparkling, and retired colors) available to give you as many different shades as you need. I roughly organized this set and split it into 4 parts of 30 crayons each. Where I will go through and evaluate each color and whether or not getting the 120 is really that much better and the 64 or 96.

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White – White is white, and on white paper, virtually invisible. There isn’t much of an off-white look either; it really does look like white paper on another color. It’s probably everyone’s least used crayon, but it’s good for highlighting, and covering an entire page without being able to see what your doing.

Piggy Pink – And very quickly we get to one I’m not really a fan of. Piggy Pink is a next-to-impossible-to-see color that, based on all of my observations, might actually be a pink hue. Maybe it’s for highlighting, but how often do you see that with crayons? I think it’s close to useless.

Salmon – Next up is a Salmon, which does look like the fish, though darker. Like most of the pinks it doesn’t cover well and is quite pale, but its still a pleasant color that could find a variety of uses.

Shocking Pink – Shocking pink is one of those fluorescent colors. It is easily the brightest pink and since the set has no “hot pink” it is a suitable replacement. It’s good for coloring 80’s clothing and aliens, but I suspect some could find more creative uses for it.

Radical Red – The name of this one is a bit of a swap, I think. It’s not really a red, much more of a pink (even with pink being weird as far as the light our eyes see and everything). I would best describe it as a darker, and more subdued, version of hot pink. Think the 90’s version of Shocking Pink up there, with much the same uses.

Wild Watermelon – Wild watermelon is quite an apt name for this one: it does look like a ripe (perhaps a bit overly so) watermelon. It’s a bright spring or flower color that unfortunately doesn’t cover well and has limited use.

Razzle Dazzle Rose – A color very similar to shocking pink, but with slightly different coverage properties (less even, but darker in spots). It is a bit darker and does give off a hint of the classic rose color, but it isn’t very spectacular.

Carnation Pink – This pink does resemble a carnation, but of course flowers range hugely in colors. It is a good flower color and covers well, but it’s too light to have many other applications.

Pink Flamingo – Despite the name being slightly misleading (it doesn’t really look like a flamingo, it’s quite a bit darker) this is one of my favorite pinks. It has a nice easy-to-see color, that covers alright, and has a versatile (for pink) range, from flowers, to berries, and even flamingo shading.

Tickle Me Pink – Lacking any knowledge about what color “Tickle Me” is I will say that this pink is a very similar one to the Pink Flamingo, it covers better and is a more “blueish” color. Filling many of the same roles, but being just a hint different.

Cotton Candy – Cotton Candy is one of the last “It is really hard to see this” colors we’ll have for a while (until lavender, and then not until yellows) but by virtue of it being one of those I am not a fan. It does cover surprisingly well, but it isn’t the color of cotton candy (at least what I’ve eaten) nor much else.

Mauvelous – Mauvelous is a wonderful pun and a nice-looking color. It isn’t the best covering one, but it is a light, purple-ish pink that is nice too look at. The one problem though is that the color isn’t mauve. It might be in the same realm (as in purple) but it wouldn’t have nearly the same uses.

Scarlet – Scarlet has always been one of my favorite colors. It’s a nice very bright red that looks good in highlighting, flowers, and anything that is generally a red color. It doesn’t cover as well as some of the other colors unfortunately. But it does draw the eyes while not being too overbearing.

Brick Red – Another apt name, this color is very much like a new brick wall with perhaps a dash of purple. It works for brick, obviously, and some older red items, like old fire hydrants and the like. Like most reds it’s all right in coverage, but lets the white show through here and there.

Razzmatazz – If I had to tell you what a Razzmatazz was, I wouldn’t be able to. I might guess that it would be a similar color to a raspberry, which this color is. It is also very much unlike Razzle Dazzle Pink, being a fairly dark pink/purple-y red that covers well enough. It’s good for berries and flowers and such, but I couldn’t pick it out in a lineup.

Red – A classic color there really isn’t much to say about. With coverage being much smoother than all of the pinks or pink-likes, and a pigment suitable for fire trucks, or apples it is an indespenable one.

Pink Sherbert – An interesting spelling choice on this one, but an apt description. This color would be very usable for frozen fruity treats. It is darker and covers better than most of the pinks and is quite soothing and cool looking.

Wild Strawberry – Wild Strawberry does look like a wild berry, but I’m not sure a strawberry would be the one I’d pick. It is a bit more purple/blue than most strawberries I’ve seen, but perhaps that’s just because I haven’t seen them in the wild. It is a nice raspberry or grape color as well, but like most reds it lacks good coverage.

Violet Red – This color is very hard to differentiate from the previous wild strawberry. It’s a little lighter, and a little more purple, but it has much the same use and properties.

Maroon – Maroon is one of my favorite colors in general, but it is generally a redish-brown-purple. And this version is distinctly less brown than is typical. I’d almost call Brick Red a more standard maroon color. It’s still a very nice, deep, satisfying color here, that gives the best coverage out of any of the reds. Unfortunately its uses are limited to shading, bruises, some clothing, and Texas A&M paraphernalia.

Cerise – Another color I am mostly unfamiliar with, but the name is quite accurate here. A purplish red, cerise doesn’t have many uses, save berries again. But it is a pleasant, lighter color that covers decently when applied.

Jazzberry Jam – Crayola seem to really like adding “z’s” to their color names, a theme that another color will follow before we’re through this first part. Jazzberry Jam is a lighter purplish-red and is indeed like many types of jams, jellies and berries. It’s got good coverage and is nice on the eyes.

Blush – Another good color name, Blush is exactly what I would have expected this color to be, or at least one of the variations. It’s a medium tone red-purple that covers very well and could be used as an actual blush color, unfortunately, despite it being nice looking, there isn’t much else to do with it.

Lavender – A fairly accurate representation of the flower, lavender is a light purple that is one of the more difficult crayons to see, and doesn’t cover very well, but is also one of the most interesting to look at. Not much to use it for, though.

Hot Magenta – This color is very similar to Razzle Dazzle Rose, with a dash more purple and some of the “atomic” glow taken out. I’m not a fan, and it doesn’t cover well, but it is seeable and not too hard on the eyes.

Purple Pizzazz – The final of the various “azz” colors, Purple Pizzazz is pretty unspectacular. It’s a light purple suitable for light purple things that covers all right. It’ll get use as an in-between color, but I can’t see reaching for it that often.

Magenta – Taking time off from Blues Clues magenta makes a good showing here. It covers well, looks very much like magenta, and because of that is nice too look at. Other than again flowers, berries, and the character, I’m not sure where it would be used, though.

Fuchsia – The hardest to spell color is also one of the hardest for people to pin down what exactly makes it (like chartreuse). Fortunately to that end it is a flower, and this color isn’t quite like the examples of the flower I’ve seen. But it would still work for other flowers and has good properties.

Red Violet – Another good color name, it is basically purple with a bit more red mixed in. Getting into these true purples though, means fewer and fewer uses, but better coverage, which this one has.

Egg Plant – And finally for this first part one of my (and certainly my mother’s) favorite colors (really just because it’s a goofy name) eggplant looks a lot like an eggplant. And it covers well enough that if you wanted to color an eggplant or shade some other purple color it would work perfectly.

And that’s all for the first 30 colors. Next time I’ll look at another 30 going from the purples to in the greens.

Review – Faber-Castell Lux 034

Last week I talked about a Faber-Castell ballpoint pen that was made in Peru, the 033. And this week I will continue my talk of Peruvian pens with the Faber-Castell 034 in all of the standard colors: black, blue, and red. And these seem much more like a Faber-Castell version of the inexpensive Bics and Paper:Mates that are used all the time.

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The body is as simple as it can be. It’s a straight cylinder with a small bit of fluting on the end that allows to cap the grip when posted. There is also some fluting on the slight step-down that is the section, and it is surprisingly comfortable and grippy. From there, there is a fairly standard looking cone that leads to the metal tip. As far as I can tell this is not removable and thus the pen is not refillable. The cap is a single piece of plastic with the same fluting on the top, and it has a slight taper to catch the section. The clip is molded in and does work, but not very well since it doesn’t ever meet the cap or barrel.

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Writing is fairly smooth and nice. There is globbing and occasionally startup issues. Red seems to have more problems with the former while black the latter. All tips are on the fine side of medium, and aren’t shielded from air by the cap so they will have startup problems if left out for some time. The ink is water-resistant and office-friendly,with a grayish, warm black, a dark-ish blue, and a deeper red. They are pretty similar to a Bic Stic/Cristal and a Paper:Mate Write Bros. The main differences are a darker red color, and a smoother writing experience.

Overall, I’m happy with them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find them. The writing is as good or better than most of the pens of comparable price in the US, but the bodies are made of what feels like a much more brittle plastic and they are very light weight and get float-y when writing. They are a good, solid, cheap office pen.

Review – Poppin Fineliners

Poppin is a company that I don’t know much about, but their pens definitely catch the eye. When I saw this set of fineliners (felt tip pens) from them, I knew I had to pick a set up. The packaging and the feeling of the pens themselves appears quality, but do they live up to their first impressions?

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The outsides themselves are very nice looking. At the bottom is a small inset for posting the cap, which connects via a visible seam to a very smooth and featureless barrel. Underneath the cap are a series of step downs that are quite short and would be uncomfortable to hold, leading quickly to a standard-looking felt tip point, making it more comfortable to hold the pen by the barrel when writing. The cap, when on, has a slight step up from the barrel but is equally pleasantly smooth, and its only features are a dimple in the top and a rather unique u-like clip that looks like a Lamy wire clip that has been flattened.

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Functionally, the clip is about useless. It doesn’t have any dimple with which to grip, and is spaced farther from the cap than the width of most fabrics, meaning friction won’t be holding it in. The tips themselves aren’t that great, either. Like most fineliners, they do write with minimal pressure, but unlike most they do not give a consistent line. Dots very quickly form when writing or drawing due to having a very fluid ink not well controlled, and when writing fast at times skips can even develop, though this is rare.

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The colors of black, blue, and red are very standard, but the two extra colors are very washed out, blue especially. The blue is very pleasant sky blue when controlled well, but becomes darker quickly. But it still sticks out compared to other office blues. Red is nice and vibrant, though its tone is closer to that of a pink. It’s the least prone to problems as the ink is a bit thinner and less likely to dot. The black is fortunately a black and not a very deep purple or gray as some are. It is slightly on the cool side, which is unusual. The colors do match their corresponding pen bodies fairly well, but the inclusion of a 4th pen that has a white body, but also black ink, is slightly confusing. They unfortunately do bleed through the paper, but have minimal shading and resist water (while they do spread slightly when wet, they remain easily readable).

Overall I think the pens aren’t really up to par with what one can get for their office. They are sturdy and the ink works well, but without functional clips, they must remain at the desk or in a case, and their writing performance leaves much to be desired. The user just ends up with a pen that feels slightly rough and dry. If style and durability are your main concerns (and potentially ease of writing as the ink almost jumps from pen to page on contact) these might work for you. But for those looking for the superior, super-smooth and comfortable writing experience, or a portable reliable writer, these can be easily passed up.

Review – Office Depot Ballpoint Pens

Most stores have generic in-store brands or store branded products for various merchandise. That is the case here, with these Office Depot branded ballpoint pens. I don’t know what they cost originally, but they were marked down twice to 50 cents and then 3 packages for $1. Which means I picked up 30 for a $1. There are very few things I wouldn’t say are a good value for that price (I’d probably say stale gum was worth 30 pieces for $1) so it would be hard for these things to let me down. So let’s see how they perform.

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The bodies of the pens are super simple. They are round and straight with a cap on the end to hold the ink cartridge in on the back, and a slight bump (to hold the cap on) followed by a taper and then the point of the front. The cap is fairly generic with an integrated clip that works but isn’t great. They are all made of translucent plastic that matches the ink and have “Office Depot” printed on the side.

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Writing is surprisingly smooth, especially for mediums (they’re a bit broader than normal mediums I would say) and at times they can write with minimal pressure. The packages say “No skip guarantee” which isn’t true, but it wouldn’t be for any pen. It blobs after a certain amount of writing time but I don’t know a pen that wouldn’t, and it’s less than expected. They do tend to have (sometimes severe) startup issues though, especially the longer they are left capped, as do most cheap ballpoint pens.

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The colors are fairly standard office colors, nothing at all natural looking. The black is just off-black and slightly warm. The red is deep and doesn’t shade much, but still very noticeable. And the blue is quite dark, but still differentiate-able from the black except in the lowest of lights. All are essentially waterproof and dry quickly.

Overall, I’d say the pens are probably worth it. They have no frills, and likely a high margin of error. Any problems, though, and the pen can simply be tossed. They do come with wax-sealed tips, meaning they will last longer in storage, but after that they need to be used fast before they dry up. The bodies are sufficiently hardy to last easily for the life expectancy of a pen like this. The cap seals, the clip holds, and the tip writes. Everything’s functional and unspectacular. If you’re running a business where pens are needed frequently by customers or employees, or you’re just forgetful and lose your pen, these are cheap and they work until they disappear. But they won’t be impressing anyone.

Review – Sharpie Colors Part 5 Reds – Red, Pink, Pink Lemonade, and Magenta

We’re five parts in to my look at the various Sharpie pen colors I have. This time I will be looking at some of the various shades of red.

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Red – The red itself is a deep, dark color. It’s close enough to the color of a red rose, and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if the dye for both is those red bugs) ketchup. It’s not very aggressive or eye-hurting, but it stands out and is good for marking and work-appropriate. It’s not the best or worst on the bleed-through side of things, but has almost no shading or feathering. It’s a good color, if a bit boring.

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Pink – The pink is also a bit like a rose, not getting quite to the obnoxious hot pink style, but still bright and visible. It’s not the most natural color, but it does separate things out from the crowd. Bleeding is again medium, feathering and shading are a bit more pronounced than on the regular red, though.

Pink Lemonade – Pink lemonade is indeed the color of pink lemonade, or of a pink crayon or candle (something wax). It’s not unpleasing, but it’s also not a color I would keep coming back to. It’s fairy flat and doesn’t really pop out, but is differentiatable. Bleed-through and feathering are pretty bad, and shading is noticeable, though not too much.

Magenta – And now for the final color I’m a bit dubious about. I think it’s magenta. It’s a very deep pinkish color (should I say again like a rose? Roses occur in so many colors) which I can’t find many natural parallels to, nor any really solid work applications. It does look pretty (I guess) but that’s about it. Bleed-though and feathering are terrible with this one, but no shading is evident.

And that’s the reds. They look like flowers, and don’t work well at the stereotypical workplace. They work for organizing, but have some pretty extreme properties. They’re certainly the most eye-catching of the bunch (other than yellow).

Next week I’ll look at the Oranges (and yellow)